NY Police Arrest Man in Slayings of 4 Shopkeepers
Police have arrested a Brooklyn man who they believe has shot and killed four shopkeepers without provocation in Brooklyn and Queens since early last month, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced last night.
The suspect, Larme Price, 30, confessed on Saturday to the four slayings, which terrorized residents and small-business owners and had been described as the work of a serial killer, the police said. Mr. Price said he was motivated by a desire to kill people of Middle Eastern descent after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Kelly said at a news conference at police headquarters.
Only one of the four victims, all foreign-born men, was from the Middle East, but Mr. Price was apparently under the impression that they all were, Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Price, the police say, shot the four victims in the head, usually without demanding money. He will be prosecuted first by the district attorney's office in Brooklyn, where three of the killings took place, Mr. Kelly said. A law enforcement official said charges would include multiple counts of first-degree murder, a crime that could be punishable by death. He will also face two counts of attempted murder, Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Price drew attention to himself when he walked into the 77th Precinct station house on Friday night and offered to help the police find the killer, Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Price told investigators the killer went by the nickname "Dog" and "appeared eager to help the investigation," Mr. Kelly noted. The investigators quickly became suspicious of Mr. Price, whose walk and appearance, they say, resembled that of the killer. They did not have enough evidence to detain him. But the next day, speaking to investigators on a cellphone, Mr. Price broke down and confessed to the killings, Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Price said he was confessing because he had been reading the Bible, particularly the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," Mr. Kelly said, and because he was concerned about his two daughters.
The police said Mr. Price did not appear to have been involved in a fifth fatal shooting that took place at an auto parts store in East New York, Brooklyn, on March 1. Members of the task force assigned to the case had believed that killing was carried out by the same man.
Mr. Price told the police that he killed one of his victims, a Russian-born man who worked at an all-night coin laundry in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, because Mr. Price felt disrespected when the man told him he could not sit in the store unless he was doing laundry there, Mr. Kelly said.
Asked about Mr. Price's statement that he wanted to kill people of Middle Eastern descent, Mr. Kelly said, "I believe it fits the definition of a bias crime."
But Mr. Price's mother, Leatha Price, said yesterday that her son's anger at Middle Easterners was a matter of mental illness, not ethnic hatred.
Speaking at the door of her apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Ms. Price said her son had a history of drug abuse and mental health problems, and that as recently as three weeks ago she had tried unsuccessfully to have him admitted to Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn because he appeared to be mentally unbalanced. She said her son ranted wildly, claiming that the Central Intelligence Agency was after him and that the hospital had put a tracking device in his hand.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, "he walked around scared all the time, he couldn't sit still," Ms. Price said. At one point he said, "I'm going to join the war," she added. After the most recent trip to the hospital, he was scared to come out of the car, saying, " `They're following me, Ma, they're following me,' " she said.
"We kept trying to get help for him, but they kept letting him go," Ms. Price said.
The police are investigating the possibility that Mr. Price is mentally ill, Mr. Kelly said.
The police have also detained a man who was with Mr. Price during the first killing, at a food market in Ozone Park, Queens, on Feb. 8, Mr. Kelly said. That man, whose name was not released, is being considered a witness. Mr. Price was alone during all the other shootings.
In addition to Mr. Price's confession, there is ample evidence linking Mr. Price to all four killings, Mr. Kelly said. Investigators have recovered the 9-millimeter Intertech handgun that they say was used in the most recent killing, on March 20, at the Stop I Food Market in Crown Heights. They said they had also found a distinctive hat, gloves and other clothing that could be seen on surveillance videotape taken at the scenes of other killings.
The gun and clothing were found at the home of Mr. Price's girlfriend, who is pregnant with his child, Mr. Kelly said. She is not the mother of Mr. Price's two other children, who have different mothers, Mr. Kelly added.
Mr. Price discarded the .40-caliber handgun he used in the first three killings because he was out of ammunition and knew that the police were looking for it, Mr. Kelly said. That gun has not been recovered.
Mr. Price, who is unemployed, has eight prior arrests dating back to 1989, on charges including robbery, assault, burglary and criminal possession of a weapon, Mr. Kelly said. In the past, he has sold textbooks, which the police believe were stolen, on the street near the campuses of New York City colleges, Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Price lives at 1225 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Mr. Kelly said. The building is less than a block from the Stop I Food Market, where a Yemeni immigrant was shot and killed on March 20. Several residents in the building said yesterday that Mr. Price had often shopped there.